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Francis Atwoli: Profile Of COTU SG Who Claimed To Be The Third Most Powerful Kenyan After Uhuru, Raila

First published on: May 22, 2018 

Francis Atwoli was born on 6 June 1949 in Kakamega county. The Central Organization of Trade Unions-Kenya (Cotu-K) Secretary General is married to 38 year old Mary Kilobi. His relationship with his second wife Roselinda Atwoli ended acrimoniously. Atwoli has a first wife who he says is well behaved. The trade unionist said of his marriage:

“I allowed her to come and visit the kid but not spend the night. I have a first wife who does not behave like Roselinda. She respects our marriage.”

Francis Atwoli Biography, Salary, Networth And Street Named After Him
Mary Kilobi Image/Courtesy


Cotu-K is synonymous with Francis Atwoli. A man who speaks his mind with so much abrasiveness that he comes out as a rude know-it-all. The Cotu SG is known as a champion of workers rights and has a penchant for dabbling in politics. Atwoli rise to the apex of trade unionism has been anything but dramatic starting with his rather undecorated education background.

Talking of education. Little is known of Francis Atwoli’s formative education, a subject he’d rather not discuss. In an interview appearing on the Daily Nation, Atwoli told the interviewer when pushed to talk about his education background: “Maneno ya elimu wachana nayo” (leave education matters out of this interview). The article went on to write that he attended St Mary’s High School in Machakos in 1963. This conflicted with a story appearing on the same publication that claimed the trade unionist studied at Nairobi’s St Mary’s High School.

Scholarship Home and Abroad

The fiery Atwoli worked as a technician with the East African Post and Telecommunications after completing his ‘O’ levels. This is where he traces his meteoric rise to his current position as Cotu SG. He was to earn a scholarship fat the ILO College of International Labour Studies in Turin, Italy. Then another scholarship came his way at the Cotu Institute of Education in Limuru and George Mini Labour Centre in Maryland, USA, between 1974 and 1992.

Unionism Journey

The man, who fashions himself as the spokesman for the common Kenyan, rise to the top was not without its hurdles. Atwoli’s attempt to clinch the general secretary position of the Union of Post and Telecommunications Employees came a cropper after he was floored.

Lady luck smiled at the unionist and he went on to be elected Kenya Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union general secretary in 1994. This was the launchpad he needed to vie for a Cotu position when its former boss Joseph Mugalla retired. Atwoli has consolidated his position at Cotu with very minimal challenge from his detractors.

Critics of Atwoli

The flamboyant trade unionist is said to be a man who doesn’t take advice. It is either his way or no way. A former aide told the Daily Nation: “He will tell you to go to hell if you come in between him and an idea.”

He is conniving when dealing with his critics: ““He has managed to neutralise any dissenting voice. No one dares to raise a voice against him as he will ensure all your followers leave you,” an official of a hotel workers union was quoted by the same publication describing Atwoli’s other side.

It was the death of his former deputy and Kabete MP Hon George Muchai that threatened to soil his name. Loud whispers by some leaders seemed to suggest Atwoli had a hand in his brutal murder. In 2014, Atwoli had sued his suspended deputy for defaming him. Atwoli was enraged by allegations made by Mr Muchai’s that he had embezzled workers union funds. The former also claimed that latter had accused him of being a ‘medicine man’ and was demanding kes500 million as compensation.

In his defense, Atwoli said he sponsored Hon Muchai to go to parliament to articulate issues of workers. Investigations into the murder of Muchai, like of most high profile Kenyans, has remained unresolved.

Atwoli’s second wife Roselinda Atwoli Image/Thestar

Positions held by Atwoli

Atwoli holds a number of positions away from his powerful Cotu seat.

Mr. Francis L. Atwoli is Chairman at East African Trade Union Confederation,
Member-Governing Body at International Labour Organization,
President at Organisation of African Trade Union Unity,
President at Trade Union Federation of Eastern Africa,
Secretary General at Central Organization of Trade Unions,
Secretary General at Kenya Plantation & Agricultural Workers Union,
Vice President at International Labour Conference
Vice President at The International Trade Union Confederation.

Atwoli is a Board of member of;

National Bank of Kenya Ltd-(Banks)- Independent Non-Executive Director2003
East African Trade Union Confederation-Chairman
Trade Union Federation of Eastern Africa-President
Organisation of African Trade Union Unity-President
International Labour Organization Member-Governing Body
International Labour Conference-Vice President
The International Trade Union Confederation-Vice President
Central Organization of Trade Unions-Secretary General
Kenya Plantation & Agricultural Workers Union-Secretary General
National Social Security Fund (NSSF)-Member

Salary and Net Worth Of Francis Atwoli

Francis Atwoli Biography, Salary, Networth And Street Named After Him
Francis Atwoli Image/Citizen

Properties Owned By Atwoli

Multi Million House In Kajiado

He has been described by his associates as wealthy and generous. According to a story appearing on People’s Daily, Atwoli stately mansion in Kajiado has a helipad, parking lot that can accommodate upto 100 cars, a restaurant that can hold 300 guests at a go and a number of guest rooms. He has another address in Kilifi.

Residential houses in Nakuru and Nairobi-Multi Million

Mercedes Benz S300 Model

Flower farm

He is proud of his toy that changes color depending on the prevailing weather conditions.

Mercedes Maybach 6 Cabriolet-sh60 million

This car is mostly used by Heads of State in developing countries. Atwoli said in an interview with the Nation that his friends in West and Northern Africa had contributed an advance payment of about kes35 million for his latest toy. How true is that? Only Atwoli knows.

Designer Clothing and Accessories

The trade unionist claimed in an interview on JKL Show aired on KTN that his suit alone can go upwards of Kes1 million. He dons the most expensive watch in the world. The cheapest Franck Muller watch retails at $2,400 (kes240,000).

In a separate interview, he has to keep appearances: “Kila kitu yangu ni mzuri. Huwezi kwenda kwa matajiri na koti imeraruka na unaenda kuulizia watu mshahara? (Everything I own is good. I cannot go to employers in tattered suits to ask for an increment for workers).

Net Worth

It goes without saying that Atwoli is rich. This is true of a man who can loan a friend sh110 million without asking for any form of security. Atwoli advanced debt ridden Cyrus Jirongo kes110 million loan which was to be repaid with an interest of sh10 million within 50 days. As expected, Jirongo failed to pay the friendly loan as agreed. The matter is in court and it’s not clear if Jirongo repaid the debt.

Atwoli estimated net worth is just above kes700 million.

Interesting facts about Atwoli

He is a teetotaler
Avid catholic who never misses mass
Ran for the Butere parliamentary seat in 1997-lost miserably
He is a polygamist

Street Named After The Trade Unionist

A street has been named after Francis Atwoli and it did not come without controversy. The road, formerly named Mandera Road, was changed to Francis Atwoli Road in recognition of his selfless contribution and agitating for the rights of Kenyan workers in the last 54 years,” atleast according to Deputy Governor Anne Kananu.

An elated Atwoli said of the recognition:

“I want to thank the leadership of Nairobi under Anne Kananu, for this great honour and recognition of services to the Government of the day, the community and workers at large. We will continue offering our unwavering support to the leadership of the county….” 

Barely two days after it had been erected-unknown persons uprooted it and this did not go down well with the trade unionist.

He shared this on tweeter:

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